House
Wednesday, 21 June 2017

I don't talk publicly about personal stuff very often, mostly because I think people would find it boring, but I thought I would in this case because it might make me less responsive for the next couple months.

Anyway, we are planning on selling our house in the near future. It has been our long term plan for a while now to sell the house, buy an RV, and slowly travel around America (spending several months at each location). We were planning on doing this after our middle child graduated from high school, but Soldak's sales have slowed down enough that we kind of need to do it early for financial reasons. So instead of fixing up the house over several years, I'm now doing it over a much shorter period of time. Working on an expansion and a full new game, getting the house ready for selling, and having 2 kids in the house (a teen and a toddler) is exhausting!

From a Soldak perspective, you shouldn't see too much of a difference though. In the short term, I might disappear for a few days here and there, but that isn't too much different than normal. In the long run, if I release a game or upload a patch, you guys won't necessarily care if I happen to be in Texas, Colorado, or Minnesota at the time. The nice part about my setup is that it doesn't really matter where I am physically. As long as I have an internet connection and electricity, I can work just fine.

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Orc Schism town defense
Friday, 09 June 2017
I haven't blogged in a while and I really need to much more often, so I'm going to talk about Zombasite: Orc Schism some today. In this case, I'm going to talk about how we are enhancing the town defense part of the game quite a bit.

  • Guards - You can now place twice as many guards as the base game (16 now).
  • Guard types - There are now way more guard types, including traps, totems, altars, and crystals. Player traps work a little differently than world traps. They can be set off an infinite number of times by enemies, but they can also be destroyed. Totems, altars, and crystals all buff nearby friendlies with different effects.
  • Guard locations - You can change where each guard's location is. If you want to focus on your flanks because you are worried about a clan raid you can shift some of your guards over there. If you are worried about your healthstone, you can surround it with guards. Also, since your town is randomly laid out in the expansion, where you want to put your guards might change with each world.
  • NPC guard focus - You will now get a bit more control over NPCs when they are using the guard focus by selecting how they guard. Currently you can choose stationary, patrol, or wander.
  • Clan items - You can now change clan items (relics, doors, and guards) while your clan is under attack. It does take 15 seconds to install though when under attack.
  • Defensive raids - I'm not sure what I'm going to call this yet, but you will be able to form a full raiding party (up to 5 NPCs) to defend a clan from anything that is attacking them. This is restricted to clans that you have a mutual protection pact or alliance with or your own clan. This does cost a small amount of expedition points (currently 5, which is half of an offensive raid).

As usual comments are welcome!

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Hardcore scenarios
Wednesday, 01 February 2017

Usually in our games, each time you start a new world they have the same basic setup. In Depths of Peril, you start in a town with several other covenants vying for control of the Barbarians. In Din's Curse, you start in a town that sits on a dangerous dungeon or cave and you must protect the town. In Drox Operative, you start in a sector of space populated with several races and must quell the sector using any of 5 win conditions. In Zombasite, you start in a town with your own clan, and must survive the Zombasite and can win with 4 different win conditions.

In our next game, the basic setup will be different each time. Basically each new world will be a different adventure. Right now the things that can change are the basic layout of the world, if there are any clans around, starting conditions, different win conditions, and different lose conditions. I'm trying to make these each feel and play very different from each other.

Right now there 16 different scenarios in the game, here's some examples:

Normal: You start in a town, there are several above and below ground areas, and there are clans in the region that may or may not work with you. Other than not having your own clan this is similar to Zombasite.

Survival: You are locked into 1 small area, there a ton of monsters that respawn fast, and there is an active invasion. Your goal is to survive!

Unstable: You start in a cave that is collapsing one level at a time. Once a level starts collapsing, it isn't certain death, but boulders constantly falling on your head is bad. You win if you can get to the last level without dying.

Deathmatch: You start in a small area with a number of other NPCs in a fight to the death. There aren't any other monsters, but there are lots of traps. You can try to make treaties, but they will have to end sooner or later because only one can survive.

Gladiator: You start in a very small arena. You are trying to survive while wave after wave or enemies are thrown at you. Each wave is harder than the last.

So, at least from a setup perspective, this is the direction the next game is going in. What do you guys think? Do you have any cool setup ideas that you think we should add?

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Next after Zombasite
Thursday, 27 October 2016
For the first time ever, I think we are going to work on 2 projects at once. It's not like we are going to have 2 teams or anything. I just think these 2 projects will overlap enough that we can do both at the same time fairly efficiently.

While Zombasite isn't doing as well as I would like (hopefully launching on GOG will change that some), I think it deserves an expansion. So that's one of the 2 projects we will be working on. I'm not positive what the focus of this expansion will be, but some possibilities are more classes, lots more quests, more monsters, etc. The nice side benefit of working on an expansion is that it allows me to actively work on Zombasite, so that will mean fixes, balancing, and probably even some new features here and there will sneak into the base game. If you all have things you would like to see in an expansion, please speak up!

The other project is going to be a separate game that is focused around the ideas of hardcore characters with random skills and traits, the next generation of character is evolved from his/her parents, and each world has a random setup and win conditions. The general idea is each individual character life will be fairly quick, but some amount of the character's power growth will pass on to the next generation. Also which characters you evolve from will greatly control what mix of skills the new character has. Ever want a character that could stealth, use healing spells, and shoot arrows? You should be able to do that, but it will take some time improving and evolving from the right characters. I know this is relatively vague still, but if you have any ideas or games that you would like me to look at, again please speak up! UPDATE: I've removed the hardcore and generational parts, because everything else works much better without it.

None of this is set in stone and it is possible that I drop one or both of the projects or go in a different direction, but this is what I'm planning at the moment.

So what are your thoughts?

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Steam reviews change
Thursday, 15 September 2016

If you aren't in the loop, Steam basically added more ways to filter reviews and the default filter (and the resulting score) only take into account reviews by people that bought the game directly through Steam. External keys are left out (they are still there, they are just not included in the default settings).

Lots of people have been talking about this. You can see lots of developer reaction on RPS and on Gamasutra. You can also see some of the games that were most affected by this change here.

Here's how this is likely to affect Soldak from a developer standpoint:

The good: Hopefully developers won't be able to cheat their review scores any more by providing free keys to people (or just fake accounts) to write up fake positive reviews. You can see in that third link above that this has been happening. Hopefully this also stops the practice of people asking developers for free keys to write up a good review on Steam. We get a ton of these every time we release a new game on Steam. Frankly it's pretty unethical so we've never done this and it's time wasted going through all of this email.

The bad: Developers like us still try to sell as many units as we can directly to our gamers. We've always given Steam keys to our directly purchasers on request. In the past, sometimes this happens because we release the game directly before we get on Steam and sometimes these are people that just want to give us more support by buying directly from us. Either way these tend to be some of our more vocal fans and now their reviews will not be in the default filter and score.

The unknown: We will lose Steam reviews from our games sold through other means but end up with a Steam key. For us that means some bundles Depths of Peril has been in and a few portals that provide Steam keys that our various games have been on. I'm really not sure this will change anything for us. For developers that rely on things like Kickstarter this might be big deal.

From a customer standpoint (I do buy games, sometimes on Steam and sometimes not. I don't write reviews though):

The good: Now by default I only see reviews by accounts that actually bought the game on Steam. That should mean much more of the reviews are actually by real people and not fake crap. This should be nice. I can also always change the filter to look at all of the reviews if I want to.

The bad: For me personally from a customer standpoint, I'm not sure there is anything bad, but again I don't write reviews.

So having said all that I looked at Depths of Peril, Din's Curse, Drox Operative, and Zombasite on Steam to see how it has actually affected us so far by changing the filters and seeing what changes. With the new stuff Depths of Peril's score actually goes up 1% and loses 2 reviews, Din's Curse loses 1 review, Drox Operative loses 4 reviews, and Zombasite loses 4 reviews. So overall we lost a few reviews and DoP score actually went up a little.

So what are your thoughts?

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